FUR COMMISSION USA COMMENTARY, APRIL 24, 2001

Let Them Eat Cake!

PeTA Sees Hoof-and-Mouth Disease as the Final Solution

THROUGH THE WINTER of 2000 and spring of 2001, hoof and mouth disease hit thousands of cloven-hoofed animals in several European countries. Animals with this dreadful virus develop painful blisters on their hooves and mouths and canÕt eat or drink, the young cannot suckle and waste away, essentially dying from malnutrition. To contain the virus, agriculture officials quarantined farms, killed livestock in massive numbers, and either buried the carcasses or burned them on flaming pyres raised in the countryside. Around the world, people expressed sadness for the plight of the farmers, their animals and the terrible waste.

Back in the US, what did the countryÕs most vocal animal rights group offer? Cries for more funding to help battle the disease? Pleas to donors for money to support immunization programs? Lobbying efforts for changes in ag policy to make government more responsive? Education programs for travelers to help stop the spread of the disease?

Sorry, reality in 2001 is not so kind-hearted.

"I openly hope that it comes here," stated the Angry Vegan, Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA).

While giving these interviews slamming domesticated farm animals, PeTA's Newkirk is pictured cradling a domestic cat. She is often photographed hugging a chicken.

Newkirk and PeTA have always been crystal clear on one point. "[A]nimals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, or experimentation" states PeTA.

If that cat and chicken and all the other domesticated animals had a vote, they'd most certainly vote against PeTA setting policy since, if PeTA wins, all domesticated animals will be history.

Ingrid Newkirk has said, "One day we would like an end to pet shops and the breeding of animals." [Chicago Daily Herald, Mar. 1, 1990]

Newkirk expanded her death wish from domesticated cattle to the farmers, slaughterhouse workers, butchers, chefs, restaurant workers and all those who labor to feed us. "It will bring economic harm only for those who profit from giving people heart attacks and giving animals a concentration camp-like existence. It would be good for animals, good for human health and good for the environment."(1)

True to form, the UK branch of PeTA demanded that any government compensation to British farmers come with a pledge to stop raising livestock. "By all means compensate farmers for their loss of business, but do not compensate them only to continue with their harmful practices," stated PeTAÕs UK rep, Andrew Butler.(2) "Animal agriculture is by no means a necessity, nutritionally speaking," he continued.

Butler is correct on that one point; animal agriculture is not an individual necessity. One can, if careful, survive on a vegan diet of tofu, beans, rice, veggies and fruit, while wearing pleather, cotton, hemp and synthetic clothing. One can be vegan and survive. But 6 billion of us canÕt.

"Now is the time to end this madness once and for all," stated Butler. We canÕt agree more.

PeTA advocates replacing open pastureland supporting animal protein production (dairy and beef) with row crops, such as the nitrogen-rich soybean and thirsty cotton, for the production of plant-based protein and clothing, abandoning animal-based natural fibers completely. Add in the oil industry for the production of synthetics and voila! An unsustainable food and clothing policy courtesy of the Angry Vegans at PeTA.

With the outbreak of hoof and mouth disease, an increasing number of people are experimenting with veganism, relying exclusively on plant-based food, and plant-based and synthetic clothing. However, with less than 3% of the EarthÕs surface being suitable for crop production (10% of the land base), animal protein and fiber will continue to be indispensable to the survival of the planetÕs 6 billion people and their animals, and to the conservation of natural habitat. To succeed, we need to engage a holistic view of agriculture, promoting diversity and flexibility. It is for these reasons that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) promotes the use by humans of both plants and animals, domestic and wild.

On the importance of domesticated animals, the FAO takes the following position:

"Domestic farm animals are crucial for food and agriculture, providing 30 to 40 percent of the agricultural sectorÕs global economic value. Around 2 billion people - one third of the global population - depend at least partly on farm animals for their livelihoods. Meat, milk and egg production will need to more than double over the next 20 years to feed the growing world population."(3) [emphasis added]

Based on FAO stats, the Department of Animal Science at Oklahoma State University has this to add:

"Agricultural animals have always made a major contribution to the welfare of human societies by providing food, shelter, fuel, fertilizer and other products and services. They are a renewable resource, and utilize another renewable resource, plants, to produce these products and services. In addition, the manure produced by the animals helps improve soil fertility and, thus, aids the plants. ...

"Plants supply over 80 percent of the total calories consumed in the world. Animals are a more important source of protein than they are of calories. Meat, milk and fish are about equal sources of animal protein, supplying, respectively, 35%, 34% and 27% of the world supply of total protein.

"It is true that it is more efficient for humans to eat plant products directly rather than to allow animals to convert them to human food. At best, animals only produce one pound or less of human food for each three pounds of plants eaten. However, this inefficiency only applies to those plants and plant products that the human can utilize. [B]y their ability to convert inedible plant materials to human food, animals not only do not compete with the human rather they aid greatly in improving both the quantity and the quality of the diets of human societies.

"Only about one-third of the land area of the world is classified as agricultural. Thus, roughly two-thirds of the land area of the world is not suited for any sort of agricultural use because it is covered by cities, mountains, deserts, swamps, snow, etc. Of the 35 percent that can be devoted to agriculture, less than one-third(4) can be cultivated and produce plant products that the human can digest. The remaining two-thirds of the worldÕs agricultural land is covered by grass, shrubs or other plants that only ruminant animals can digest. Thus, the inefficiency of animals is not a major concern since they represent the only way these plants can be converted to human food. As the human population of the world increases, it is likely that we will be forced to depend more and more on ruminant animals to meet the increased demands for food."(5) [emphasis added]

Is there room for tofu and pleather? Of course. But ag policy should be based on science, not on the fantasies of PeTAphiles lost in Disneyland.

Instead of just grouching and attacking food and clothing providers, PeTA should be required to explain their vision in vivid detail: A world of starvation and synthetics that never biodegrade. A world without any domesticated animals.

ShouldnÕt PeTA reconcile their unsustainable ag policy with the loss of prairie land and open space to fields of soybeans for tofu and endloss rows of potatoes? ShouldnÕt PeTA talk to the public about how they plan on recycling all the billions of tons of synthetic clothing they endorse, fibers that will take hundreds of years to break down?

Ultimately, as the starving masses storm PeTAÕs building, Angry Vegan Ingrid Newkirk can detail her finely tuned food policy with the ever-appropriate soundbite: "Let them eat cake."

NOTES:

(1) "Animal rights leader hopes disease comes to US," by Alan Elsner for Reuters, Apr. 2, 2001.
(2) "Animal rights group attacks farm ŌmadnessÕ" by Charles Methven, Daily Telegraph, (London), Mar. 15, 2001.
(3) FAO press release, Dec. 5, 2000.
(4) Equivalent to less than 3% of EarthÕs total surface area.
(5) See www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds

See also:

FCUSA special feature: Sensitive and Smart - You too can be a sensitive and smart consumer!

PETA is still meatless, clueless. Center for Consumer Freedom commentary, Sept. 13, 2010.

I was wrong about veganism. Let them eat meat - but farm it properly. By George Monbiot, The Guardian, Sept. 6, 2010.

A benign extravagance? Simon Fairlie explores the debate about food localisation in a transition culture and discusses its wider implications. Permaculture Magazine, Issue 65, Autumn 2010.

Diet with a little meat uses less land than many vegetarian diets. Science Daily, Oct. 10, 2007.

Producers, consumers and clothing confusion Is mink fur really any different from sheepskin? Is its production really separate from the human food chain? FCUSA commentary. (December 2000)

A Day at the Races : The fur trade is so far ahead of politically correct, others are racing just to keep up FCUSA commentary. (July 2000)

Jesus was an omnivore. Response to PeTA's "Jesus Was A Vegetarian" campaign. FCUSA commentary. (November 1999)

Super Duper Recyclers - How fur farmers turn waste into beauty. FCUSA commentary. (October 1999)

In Their Own Words: Astounding quotes from the mouths of PeTAphiles.

Hoof-and-mouth disease resources:

U.S. Department of Agriculture

UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; see also illustrated hoof-and-mouth fact sheet in PDF format.

Further reading:

USAID on the importance of animal agriculture in developing economies and in the US


For further information contact Fur Commission USA.

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